Mennonites seek safe passage for aid in Syria

By agency reporter
28 Oct 2013

As opposition forces have overtaken the Syrian villages of Haffar and Sadad, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is appealing to the United Nations to make it possible for humanitarian aid to reach the estimated 3,000 Syrian families who are endangered there.

Since the civil war began in 2011, Sadad and Haffar had been relatively safe places where many Syrians sought refuge after being displaced by violence in other parts of the country.

But recently civilians have been killed and injured as opposition forces moved in to use the villages as a base to fight government forces. Houses and cars have been confiscated and movement of supplies and people in and out of the area has been severely restricted.

“I could hear children cry in fear of the situation,” said Riad Jarjour, president of the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (FDCD), describing a phone call with his brother in Haffar.

“I could hear the faint sounds of the barrage of mortars and intense fighting raging outside. As I sat on the phone, I could not but cry with them,” he said.

MCC, the North American inter-Mennonite relief and development agency, works through Syrian partner organisations to provide humanitarian assistance throughout Syria based on need. In these historically Christian villages, where Muslims and Christians live peacefully together, MCC provides food and educational assistance.

Jarjour and Bishop Selwanos of the Syrian Orthodox Church in nearby Homs, an MCC partner, appealed to MCC this week to advocate with the UN to negotiate safe passage for the Red Crescent to reach the wounded and safe evacuation of affected families in Haffar and Sadad.

Doug Hostetter, director of the MCC United Nations Office, took their messages to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Wednesday. The message was welcomed, Hostetter said, and shared with OCHA in the Middle East. MCC advocates in Ottawa and Washington DC also talked to government officials about the situation.

MCC’s request is in line with a 2 October 2013 UN Security Council Presidential Statement, Hostetter said, which includes this sentence: “The Security Council calls on all parties to respect the UN Guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance and stresses the importance of such assistance being delivered on the basis of need, devoid of any political prejudices and aims.”

“All we can do now is pray for the safety of the people there,” said Jarjour. “Please continue to have the people of Haffar and Sadad, as well as the people of Syria, in your thoughts and prayers. Let us continue to work for an end to violence and wars and the creation of a lasting peace and security.”

Since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011, Mennonite Central Committee has worked through Syrian organisations and churches to deliver food, cash allowances and household supplies to 10,555 families in Syria. MCC allocated $9.4 million so far in response to the Syrian crisis in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

MCC is a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that focuses on relief, development and peacebuilding. MCC works with people and communities in need and in partnership, regardless of whether they are Christian or of another faith or no faith. MCC has been working in Syria since 1991.

* Mennonite Central Committee: http://www.mcc.org/

[Ekk/3]

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